You would have thought that if we are clever enough to invent satellites we would be clever enough to keep them from crashing into one another. The same goes for submarines, but no. The revelation that a US satellite collided with an obsolete and out of control Russian satellite 500 miles above Siberia last Tuesday is pretty shocking.
It was no minor incident – the impact is expected to have created hundreds more fragments of lethal space junk that anyone visiting earth orbit now has to dodge for evermore – not easy when it is going too fast to see.
Most of us are completely oblivious to the incredible technology flying over over our heads that makes ‘normal’ life possible, locating our car sat nav and showing live sport on TV. Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, something like 6500 satellites have been put into orbit – nobody knows for sure because many are military. Of these it is estimated that fewer than half are now operational – add to these every nut, bolt, paint fleck and bag of spanners lost by previous space missions and accelerate them to 18,000 mph and we have effectively created our very own asteroid belt that makes going into space increasingly dangerous, as if it isn’t dangerous enough already.
Once beyond the space junk, things become quite breathtakingly beautiful, as this excellent photo gallery dedicated to the Hubble Space Telescope demonstrates, and if you want to help out with a bit of space exploration you can even help astronomers classify galaxies on Galaxy Zoo.
Luckily it wasn’t a GPS satellite, so we can all still figure out where we are on the face of the planet to the nearest 5m, but a career as an astronaut just became that bit more dangerous.
Back on good old earth, one of the best views of the stars you’ll see is from the high Atacama Desert in Chile – some hotel rooms even have windows in the ceiling so you can count shooting stars in bed. We have some unforgettable walks here on our Contrasts of Chile holiday – the picture below is one of our previous groups enjoying spectacular Cerro Castillo in Patagonia.
By the way, I think this link between flying space debris and a holiday to Chile is the most tenuous I have managed yet. If you can think of an even slimmer link between a current news story and a Headwater Holiday then let me know!
Curious Facts and Quotes
Buzz Aldrin on viewing earth from the moon in 1969.